This is part 1 of 2 on Respecting Your Child, a relationship-based approach.
As young parents we heard all the usual warnings about the dreaded teen years. Three of our four kids are now grown, but none of them exhibited the sort of rebellious behavior we’d been led to expect. I recently asked them why they never felt the need to push back against us. They all gave the same answer: they always felt respected for who they were. To them, respect meant trust, support, and autonomy.
I trust my children to be true to themselves while being there to gently guide and support them along their paths. I am not suggesting that we have not had our differences–we have had plenty. My relationship-based approach has helped us navigate them, though.
Ways to Foster Respect
- Unconditional Acceptance. Children are very perceptive, they know when their parents are angry, disappointed or frustrated with them. This creates a natural conflict, because they also learn through experiences, trial and error. Mistakes are bound to happen. Unconditional acceptance means remembering that when they mess up, they are doing what kids are supposed to do: seeing what works and what doesn’t and learning from it. You can help support them by observing, listening and asking targeted questions to help them think things through. When parents change the way they communicate with their children to a more inquisitive format, they allow them to analyze the facts for themselves, brainstorm solutions that make sense to them, and draw their own conclusion. That’s a powerful way to say: “I trust you to figure it out and to make meaning of your experience, but I am there to support you through the process.” You should never take their failures as a reflection of you.
- Manners Matter. Manners and etiquette are often thought of as old-fashioned relics. They’re not. They serve as scaffolding for relationships, outlining social boundaries and expectations. When you take the time to consistently teach manners to your child, you’re pouring the foundation of a respectful relationship. You are setting clear expectations of what mutual respect looks like. This means that your manners matter too, whether you’re interacting with your child or someone else. Treat people the way you want to be treated and expect the same behavior from your child.
- Respect Their Need for Autonomy. Toddlers are quick to proclaim their independence. This wonderful phase is just the beginning of their struggles to achieve autonomy. Parents naturally want to protect their children from harm but too much control can backfire. The trick is to give them the freedom to explore and gain the important analytical skills needed for independent action in a reasonably safe environment. As with most things in parenting, you have to pick your battles: movement, freedom to explore, exposure to a certain amount of dirt and natural factors are all part of a healthy childhood.
Respect is a two-way street, and relationship-based parenting is all about mutual respect. Parents build it brick by brick, side-by-side with their children. It is always a work-in-progress. It requires much insight, flexibility and a good dose of trust.
What about our youngest child? He’s just now approaching his teen years, so we’ll see how things go with him. But my approach hasn’t changed, so I am…hopeful.
This part 1 of 2 of my article Respecting Your Child, a relationship based approach. Next week, I will be expanding on building trust, using your own life lessons as a template for acceptance, not taking anything personally and the importance of knowing your role as a parent.
Want to read more on parenting? Check out my article on 10 Ways to Decrease Stress for Parents.
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Photo Credit: Photo by Stephan Hochhaus Thank you, Stephan! Border and Title added by Love Think Thrive.